Directed by Richard Donner [Other horror films: Two-Fisted Tales (1992, segment ‘Showdown’)]
Though not a movie I consider amazing, I always have thought The Omen was pretty good. It has a decently compelling story, made all the better by the mystery of Damien’s birth, and plenty of solid performances. It might be occasionally dry, but I do think it’s very much a classic.
Not being a religious individual myself, I don’t personally buy into any of the religious ramblings about the Antichrist, but unlike many exorcism films, I find that I can get into this movie far better, and it’s not all that trying. I think part of it is the fact I did first see this (or pieces of it) when I was quite young, and coupling that with the presence of a few familiar faces and classic scenes, despite not believing in the premise, I still have quite a good time.
I mean, just look at the kills here. From a woman hanging herself at a birthday party to a priest being impaled in front of a church, not to mention someone getting decapitated by a pane of glass and another individual getting pushed out a window of a hospital, there’s a lot to be found here if you’re primary concern is interesting deaths. In fact, the glass pane decapitation looks like it could be pulled out of any Final Destination movie, and while simpler in concept, the same could be said for the impalement.
Of course, it’s not only the deaths that stand out. There are a lot of great sequences, such as some characters being chased by rabid dogs in an old, dilapidated cemetery, or perhaps the baboon attack that Damien and his mother go through at the safari park. Even the finale is pretty solid all around, save for maybe the cheesiness of the final shot.
Gregory Peck (who I know best from the 1962 classic Cape Fear) was great as the lead, not buying into the Antichrist business at first (who can blame him – Patrick Troughton was a horrible messenger) but slowly figuring out the mystery and learning more about Damien’s origins. David Warner (Nightwing and a couple of other films) worked well with Peck, and the two of them scouring the Rome countryside, from monastery to cemetery, provided some of my favorite sequences in the film.
Patrick Troughton (not only one of my favorite Doctors from Doctor Who, but also The Gorgon) was a terrible messenger, but he did amazing as a religiously-inclined individual. He only got a few minutes of screen-time overall, but he dominated what he got with personality. Billie Whitelaw (Night Watch and Murder Elite) was somewhat similar, possessing a strong sinister aura. Leo McKern was a strong one-scene wonder, Lee Remick had her moments, and for a child actor, Harvey Stephens can smile with the best of them.
Overall, The Omen may not appeal to fans of more modern horror, as some of the film can feel a bit on the sluggish side. I wouldn’t call it a slow-burn – we get plenty of death throughout the whole of the movie – but it can be slow, and since it’s around an hour and 50 minutes, you might feel it. That said, I’ve always thought it hit most of the right spots, and like I said at the beginning, though I don’t find it amazing, I do think The Omen is pretty good.
12 thoughts on “The Omen (1976)”